Artist picture of Esther Phillips

Esther Phillips

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Artist's top tracks

Hello Walls Esther Phillips 03:22
Mojo Hannah Esther Phillips 02:23
And I Love Him Esther Phillips 02:39
No Headstone On My Grave Esther Phillips 03:19
Double Crossing Blues Esther Phillips, Esther Phillips & Jimmy Ricks, Jimmy Ricks 02:40
After Loving You Esther Phillips 03:10
God Bless the Child Who's Got His Own Esther Phillips 02:56
A Lover's Hymn Esther Phillips 02:26
Don't Let Me Go Esther Phillips 02:16
You Never Miss Your Water (Till the Well Runs Dry) Esther Phillips, Esther Phillips & Big Al Downing, Big Al Downing 02:17

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Use Me
I Don't Want to Do Wrong
Let's Move and Groove
Let Me In Your Life

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Biography

Despite her troubled life and premature death, Esther Phillips is remembered as a powerful, pocket-rocket, R&B diva who first rose to prominence as a child prodigy in the 1950s and went on to become a platinum-selling star who lent her smooth, quirky vocal style to some great soul, jazz and blues records.

Phillips grew up singing in church choirs in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, but her parents' divorce meant that she also spent time in Los Angeles, where her mother had re-located. It was there that she was first spotted at the age of 13, after entering a talent show held at a nightclub run by band leader Johnny Otis. It led to her making her first recordings for Modern Records in 1949, and she went on to join a travelling revue show and performed with the vocal group The Robins (who later became The Coasters). Billed as Little Esther, she became the youngest female singer to have a number one single on the Billboard R&B Charts in 1950 with 'Double Crossing Blues', and follow-up hits 'Mistrusting Blues' and 'Cupid's Boogie' also topped the same chart.

A dispute over royalties meant she switched labels and stop working with Otis, and things went rapidly downhill in the mid-'50s when she developed a heroin addiction while on the road. She returned to singing in small clubs in Houston, and was re-discovered in 1962 when a young Kenny Rogers helped her land a deal with his brother's label Lenox Records and she recorded her only US top ten single 'Release Me', later a hit for Engelbert Humperdinck. Her cover of The Beatles song 'And I Love Him' also helped build her reputation, but her drug problems re-surfaced in the mid-'60s and it wasn't until she reunited with Otis and performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1970 that she hit top form again.

Her Grammy-nominated album 'Whisper to a Scream' was a critical high point in 1972 and featured her fine version of Gil Scot-Heron's 'Home Is Where the Hatred Is'. On later albums 'What a Diff'rence a Day Makes' and 'Good Black Is Hard to Crack' she moved with the times and added funk and disco sounds to her repertoire. The drugs caught up with her however and in 1984, and after suffering kidney and liver failure, she died aged 48 in California.